You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Senators Propose Letting Cable Customers Decide Which TV Stations They Want

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.) and Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) are proposing that subscribers to cable and satellite services be allowed to choose which broadcast channels they want to pay for as part of their multichannel package.

Their proposal was met with immediate opposition on Friday from the broadcast lobby — and praise from groups representing pay-TV providers and smaller cable systems.

The rationale behind the proposal has been to limit the blackouts that occasionally take place when multichannel operators negotiate with broadcasters for retransmission rights, according to The Hill. A showdown between CBS and Time Warner Cable last year saw a month-long blackout on the latter’s systems.

Rockefeller, the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, and Thune, its ranking member, plan to attach their proposal to the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act, which is now making its way through Congress. That legislation would renew provisions that allow satellite companies to carry broadcast signals to rural customers.

The American Television Alliance, an organization of cable, satellite and telephone companies, said that the proposal would “provide consumers with great choice and transparency and would end retrans blackouts once and for all.”

Matthew Polka, president and CEO of the American Cable Assn., said that the proposal would “put consumers first” and “provide consumers with more choice in the selection of TV station programming than they have seen in decades.”

Nevertheless, the proposal is likely to face fierce opposition for broadcasters, who have seen retransmission fees as an increasingly lucrative revenue stream, now totaling an estimated $4 billion. Allowing customers to choose whether they want to pay a station’s set fee in order to get the channel very likely would cut into that, as it gives them an “ala carte” option. Many large cable providers and media companies have  generally been opposed to such an “ala carte” option when it comes to non-broadcast channels, as it is likely that many of those channels would not be able to survive under such a scenario.

Of course, any consumer with an antenna can get all the broadcast channels for free if they want to go through the trouble of setting one up.

Dennis Wharton, spokesman for the National Assn. of Broadcasters, said that the proposal “represents a significant rewrite of the Communications Act. Given the shortness of time between now and the end of the Congressional session, we question whether there is sufficient time for key committees in Congress to give this proposal the thorough review that is warranted.”

Popular on Variety

More Biz

  • Barron HiltonBarron Hilton 1990

    Famed Hotelier Barron Hilton Dies at 91

    Barron Hilton, a famed hotelier who helped expand the Hilton Hotels empire and a founding owner of the Chargers NFL football team, has died, the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation announced. He was 91. “Today the world of hospitality mourns for one of the greats. Barron Hilton was an incredible family man, business leader and philanthropist. [...]

  • Patrick Whitesell and Ari Emanuel WME

    Endeavor Targets Sept. 27 for Stock Debut, IPO Video Tells Company's Origin Story

    After years of preparation, Endeavor is set to make its formal Wall Street debut on Sept. 27, when its stock will begin trading on the New York Stock Exchange. Endeavor has targeted Sept. 26 for the final pricing of its shares. The stock will trade publicly the following day. Earlier this week, Endeavor said its [...]

  • Netflix - Apple TV

    Netflix Stock Drops After CEO Acknowledges 'Tough Competition' Coming From Disney, Apple

    Netflix shares fell as much as 7% Friday to a nine-month low, coming after CEO Reed Hastings commented that the November launches of Disney Plus and Apple TV Plus will introduce a “whole new world” of competition. Hastings, speaking at the Royal Television Society conference Friday in Cambridge, England, said, “While we’ve been competing with [...]

  • Charlie Rose Sexual Harassment

    Charlie Rose Sued for Sexual Harassment by Longtime Makeup Artist

    A makeup artist who worked for Charlie Rose for 22 years has filed a sexual harassment lawsuit, accusing the former CBS and PBS host of years of unlawful behavior toward female employees. Gina Riggi alleges that Rose was verbally abusive with her and would often make derogatory comments about her weight. She also alleges that [...]

  • Rob Stringer

    Sony Music Chief Rob Stringer on Sustaining Growth and Recovering From the 'Dark Times'

    The Goldman Sachs Communacopia conference, now in its 28th year, gives top executives at major companies the opportunity to make their case to investors — and the Goldman analysts the opportunity to keep things on the up and up. While the analysts don’t necessarily grill the executives, they don’t lob softball questions either. That was [...]

  • Frank Grillo'Avengers: Endgame' Film Premiere, Arrivals,

    Matt Phelps Tapped as President of Joe Carnahan, Frank Grillo's Warparty

    Frank Grillo and Joe Carnahan’s Warparty productikon banner has appointed Matt Phelps president of the company. Phelps will head the Los Angeles office and be responsible for overseeing all film and television projects. “We searched long and hard to find the right fit for Warparty and felt that Matt embodied everything that we were looking [...]

  • Jack Gilardi, Longtime ICM Partners Agent,

    Jack Gilardi, Longtime ICM Partners Agent, Dies at 88

    Jack Gilardi, a longtime ICM Partners agent who represented such stars as Burt Reynolds, Sylvester Stallone, Jerry Lewis, Charlton Heston and Shirley MacLaine, died Thursday at his home in Los Angeles. He was 88. Gilardi was known for his gentlemanly style, love of the Los Angeles Dodgers and his skill at representing top actors. He [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content